Nixing Natural Gas to Cut Carbon in California
Switching California homes from natural gas to electricity for space heating, water heating, and clothes drying is a cost-effective way to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a new study conducted by Energy and Environmental Economics (E3). Natural gas—accounting for both burning and leakage—is currently responsible for a quarter of GHG emissions, the report says.
By 2050, cutting out natural gas in single-family and low-rise multifamily homes could slash emissions by 80%–90% because of an ever-cleaner grid (even taking into account the expected refrigerant leakage from heat-pump equipment). California aims to achieve carbon-neutral electricity generation by 2045. E3 looked at both new construction and retrofit options, concluding that electrification not only can cut emissions but also “can lead to consumer capital cost savings, bills savings, and life-cycle savings in many circumstances.”
But for the plan to succeed, the report warns, the market for heat-pump equipment needs to mature.
Study authors recommend five steps toward assuring decarbonization by replacing natural gas with electricity in homes:
- Incentivize all-electric new construction and update the building code.
- Incentivize high-efficiency heat-pump HVAC, particularly in areas with high air-conditioning loads.
- Ensure efficient price signals are conveyed in electric and natural gas rates.
- Develop a building electrification market transformation initiative.
- Align energy-efficiency goals and savings with GHG savings opportunities.
Some municipalities in California are already looking at ways to reduce natural gas impacts. The City of Berkeley, for example, is considering an ordinance that would ban natural gas hook-ups in all new home construction.
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Published June 3, 2019